"THE rat, though small, weak, and contemptible in its appearance, possesses properties that render it a more formidable enemy to mankind, and more injurious to the interests of society, than even those animals that are endued with the greatest strength and the most rapacious dispositions. To the we can oppose united powers and superior arts; with regard to the other, experience has convinced us that no art can counteract the effects of its amazing fecundity, and that force is ineffectually directed against an animal possessed of such variety of means to elude it.
There are kinds of rats known in this country,—the black rat, which was formerly universal here, but is now very rarely seen, having been almost extirpated by the large brown kind, which is generally distinguished by the name of the
This formidable invader is now universally diffused through the whole country, from whence every method has been tried in vain to exterminate it. This species is about inches long, of a light-brown colour, mixed with tawny and ash; the throat and belly are of a dirty white, inclining to grey; its feet are naked, and of a pale flesh-colour; the tail is as long as the body, covered with minute dusky scales, thinly interspersed with short hairs. In summer it frequents the banks of rivers, ponds, and ditches, where it lives on frogs, fishes, and small animals. But its rapacity is not entirely confined to these. It destroys rabbits, poultry, young pigeons, &c. It infests the granary, the barn, and the storehouse; does infinite mischief among corn and fruit of all kinds; and not content with satisfying its hunger, frequently carries off large quantities to its hiding-place. It is a bold and fierce little animal, and when closely pursued, will turn and fasten on its assailant. Its bite is keen, and the wound it inflicts is painful and difficult to heal, owing to the form of its teeth, which are long, sharp, and of an irregular shape.
The rat is amazingly prolific, usually producing from to eighteen young ones at time. Their numbers would soon increase beyond all power of restraint, were it not for an insatiable appetite, that impels them to destroy and devour each other. The weaker always fall a prey to the stronger; and a large male rat, which usually lives by itself, is dreaded by those of its own species as their most formidable enemy.
It is a singular fact in the history of those animals, that the skins of such of them as have been devoured in their holes have frequently been found curiously turned inside out, every part being completely inverted, even to the ends of the toes. How the operation is performed it would be difficult to ascertain; but it appears to be effected in some peculiar mode of eating out the contents.
Besides the numbers that perish in these unnatural conflicts, they have many fierce and inveterate enemies, that take every occasion to destroy them. Mankind have contrived various methods of exterminating these bold intruders. For this purpose traps are often found ineffectual, such being the sagacity of the animals, that when any are drawn into the snare, the others by such means learn to avoid the dangerous allurement, notwithstanding the utmost caution may have been used to conceal the design. The surest method of killing them is by poison. Nux vomica ground and mixed with oatmeal, with a small proportion of oil of rhodium and musk, have been found from experience to be very effectual.
The water-rat is somewhat smaller than the Norway rat; its head larger and its nose thicker; its eyes are small; its ears short; scarcely appearing through the hair; its teeth are large, strong, and yellow; the hair on its body thicker and longer than that of the common rat, and chiefly of a dark brown colour mixed with red; the belly is grey; the tail inches long, covered with short black hairs, and the tip with white.
The water-rat generally frequents the sides of rivers, ponds, and ditches, where it burrows and forms its nest. It feeds on frogs, small fish and spawn, swims and dives remarkably fast, and can continue a long time under water."
In Mr. Charles Fothergill"s (), we find some reflections which remind us of Ray and Derham. We shall extract a few paragraphs which relate to the subject in hand.
"This great law," Mr. F. proceeds, "pervades and affects the whole animal creation, and so active, unwearied, and rapid is the principle of increase over the means of subsistence amongst the inferior animals, that it is evident whole genera of carnivorous beings amongst beasts, birds, fish, reptiles, and insects, have been created for the (?) of suppressing the redundancy of others, and restraining their numbers within proper limits.
When the young rats begin to issue from their holes, the mother watches, defends, and even fights with the cats, in order to save them. A large rat is more mischievous than a young cat, and nearly as strong: the rat uses her fore-teeth, and the cat makes most use of her claws; so that the latter requires both to be vigorous and accustomed to fight, in order to destroy her adversary.
The weasel, though smaller, is a much more dangerous and formidable enemy to the rat, because it can follow it into its retreat. Its strength being nearly equal to that of the rat, the combat often continues for a long time, but the method of using their arms by the opponents is very different. The rat wounds only by repeated strokes with his fore-teeth, which are better formed for gnawing than biting; and, being situated at the extremity of the lever or jaw, they have not much force. But the weasel bites cruelly with the whole jaw, and, instead of letting go its hold, sucks the blood from the wounded part, so that the rat is always killed.
 Bewick"s History of Quadrupeds, 1790, 354 et seq.
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|Chapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin|
|Our Street Folk - Street Exhibitors|
The Fantoccini Man
Guy Fawkes (Man)
Guy Fawkes (Boy)
An Old Street Showman
The Chinese Shades
Exhibitor of Mechanical Figures
The Telescope Exhibitor
Exhibitor of the Microscope
Acrobat, or Street-Posturer
The Street Risley
The Strong Man
The Street Juggler
The Street Conjurer
Statement of another Street Conjurer
The Street Fire-King, or Salamander
The Snake, Sword, and Knife-Swallower
The Penny-Gaff Clown
The Canvas Clown
The Penny-Circus Jester
The Tight-Rope Dancers and Stilt-Vaulters
Gun-Exercise Exhibitor - One-Legged Italian
|Chapter III: - Street Musicians|
Blind Performer on the Bells
Blind Female Violin Player
Blind Scotch Violoncello Player
Blind Irish Piper
The English Street Bands
The German Street Bands
Of the Bagpipe Players
Scotch Piper and Dancing-Girl
Another Bagpipe Player
French Hurdy-Gurdy Player, with Dancing Children
Poor Harp Player
Organ Man, with Flute Harmonicon Organ
Italian Pipers and Clarionet Players
Italian with Monkey
The Dancing Dogs
Concertina Player on the Steamboats
Another 'Tom-Tom' Player
Performer on Drum and Pipes
|Chapter IV: - Street Vocalists|
|Chapter V: - Street Artists|
|Chapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals|
|Chapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters|
|Chapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers|
|Chapter IX: - Ballast-Men|
|Chapter X: - Lumpers|
|Chapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers|
|Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses|
|Chapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis|
|Chapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men|
|Chapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors|
|Chapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers|
|Chapter XVII: Carmen and Porters|
|Chapter XVIII: London Vagrants|
Characteristics of the Various Classes of Vagrants
Statements of Vagrants
Statement of a Returned Convict
Lives of the Boy Inmates of the Casual Wards of the London Workhouses
Increase and Decrease of Number of Applicants to Casual Wards of London Workhouses
Estimate of Numbers and Cost of Vagrants
Routes of the Vagrants
London Vagrants' Asylums for the Houseless
Asylum for the Houseless Poor
Description of the Asylum for the Houselss
Charities and Sums Given to the Poor
|Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men|